More than Just Words

More than Just Words

2018.09.24.

The Creative Soul

 

“Your Turn – 3”, the creative encounter I asked you to undertake Sunday, Sept 16, involved using a list of common words.  The challenge involved pen, paper, and your imagination in writing something in the form of prose or poetry.  I included a total of seventy-five common words found in the English language, twenty-five each nouns, verbs, and adjectives.  The words from the list that I used are underlined and yes, I did sometimes change the tense of the verb.

 

Here are my two poetic responses.  The first is a haiku, a three-line poem in which the first and last lines have five syllables while the middle line contains seven syllables.  Haiku is a very short Japanese poem with seventeen syllables and three verses. It is typically characterized by three qualities: The essence of haiku is “cutting”. This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.  In English haiku, this may or may not be found.

 

He felt time go past

The child of old now a man

Finding the good next to come

 

An ABC Poem is a poem that has five lines and creates a mood, picture or feeling.  Generally, lines 1-4 are made up of words or phrases while the first word of each line is in alphabetical order.  Line 5 is one sentence long and can begin with any letter.

 

Able to delight for hours

Big smiles found within

Come inside the walls beckon

Day passes quickly in fun

The joys found within a child’s playroom are important and endless.

 

There are approximately fifty-five different types of poetry.  The sonnet has fourteen lines; the limerick, seven; the haiku, five; the couplet, two (and can stand alone or as part of a larger work).  There are strict rules for some types and none for poems known as free verse.  A poem can be about anything.  There are metaphor poems and creative poems, historical poetry such as many of the works of William Shakespeare and humorous poems often heard during a child jump roping or on the school yard.

 

In a fast-paced high tech world, poetry may seem antiquated.  However, the lyrics of every song are a type of poetry and music does not (thankfully) seem to on the way to oblivion.  Rappers create their own poems to rap.  It has been said that poetry is the budding, flowering and ripening of human mind in the social setting.  Poetry is of paramount importance to society and has been considered by some anthropologists to be a refinement of character evident as progress in society. Poetry can move the human mind through emotions easily and quickly.  The study of poetry from other cultures can help one understand universal truths, as well as cultural differences, and provides a unique and fascinating window into that world.  Poetry could be described as music of words, readable art, the painting of a scene with words, the dance of linguistics upon a page.  Can you tell I love poetry? LOL

 

As a young child, I saw poetry as a way to know my life, the good and the bad.  At an early age, I made a poem and never looked back.  By using poetry, my way became my own; the young child I was had a sense of right and importance.  [This is my paragraph of prose and the words italicized are from the list.]  An expert of this type of prose that was also poetry is the inestimable Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.  I have used his books in teaching everything from diversity to acceptance and each lesson ended with complete understanding and a smile.  Truly, words have power and we should always use them carefully and thoughtfully.

Uncommon Art for the Common Man

To See, Feel, Touch – Uncommon Art for the Common Man

2018.18-19

The Creative Soul

 

Sculpture is a unique form of art – related to but separate from painting, music, poetry, and writing. Unlike the others, a sculpture is a three dimensional work of art. From its very beginnings, a sculpture was meant to last. Sculpture pieces were created using materials that themselves had passed the test of time – stone and marble, hard metals such as gold and silver, and wood.  Sculptures are usually found in parks, in museums, in open spaces – all places where the average person goes. 

 

Sculpture, like most forms of art, is created with the idea of expressing a view.  A view can be personal, political, religious, historical, or something else.  Ultimately, the sculpture is also intended to evoke a feeling.   Determining the quality of a sculpture is very difficult and is subjective at best. Artists as well as artist styles go in and out of vogue and sculpture is no different.   

 

The very nature of art is to make something never seen before, even if the subject is well-known.  Heads of states and countries are always done in portraiture as well as having thousands of pictures taken.  Some have sculptures done as well, each trying to represent a different side of the individual, presenting the subject in an interesting, usually favorable light.  Some also represent the ethnicity and culture of the artist or reflect a particular style well-liked by the subject.

 

Art has value, both in economic and social terms. A 2002 study demonstrated the economic impact, finding that nonprofit arts organizations generated $134 billion nationwide, including $24.4 billion in tax revenue. The arts not only inform us about the world we live in, but also provide creative and challenging environments.   After all, the concept of museums as a gathering together of civilization’s best and most beautiful things is only a few hundred years old. For most of our history, art was never intended to be displayed in museums, but in more public places. 

 

Art is a form of communication, and the arts express the ideas of society in which they are produced.   Exposure to the arts helps expand our thinking and encourages dialogue and creativity.   Public art is an essential component of creating a vibrant community and nothing adds to the public panorama like sculpture.

 

One of my favorite sculptures is “Rising Cairn” by the artist Celeste Roberge.   “Rising Cairn” is a 4,000 lb. stone sculpture that many interpret to reflect the process of healing from grief.   Roberge says that she didn’t necessarily intend to depict anguish in the piece but doesn’t mind the alternative reading of her work. “I imagine her in the process of rising up from her crouching position…when she is ready,” she explains. “I am not disturbed by individual interpretations of the sculpture because I think it is really wonderful for people to connect with works of art in whatever way is meaningful to them.” 

 

Roberge became intrigued with cairns (piles of stones hikers used to mark trails) after learning about human-shaped inuksuit sculptures created by the Inuit people in the Arctic region. For each site-specific sculpture, Roberge finds each stone herself and places them within the steel cage that holds its shape. “I was hoping the feeling of weight, would [symbolically] be carried in the sculpture itself,” said Roberge in a video by the Portland Museum of Art.

 

A professor at the University of Florida, Roberge suggests that art lovers ought to consider the artist’s original intent too. “If the image has helped some people to find a way of expressing their unspoken feelings, then I think that is beneficial. At the same time, I think viewers should give some thought to the artist’s intentions because the meaning of a work of art can be very complex and multi-layered.” She says her cairn sculptures are tribute to the rugged North Atlantic landscape.  Roberge created the first Rising Cairn in the late 1980s when she was a fellow at Harvard University and creates them on commission today. “Each time, I am surprised that the process is still interesting to me,” she says. “I was just installing a cairn in San Francisco last month and I noted that they are never the same: different place, different light, different stones, different siting in the landscape, different energy.”

 

I think her last sentence is an important thing to remember whenever we critique any art form or piece of creative effort.  Where we are, physically and personally, the light with which we view or hear, the light within our souls or the lack thereof at that particular moment, the energy we feel or do not feel – all of these things affect our response.  It is in sculpture that we are able to see, touch, and even stub our toe on the art form.  Sculpture as an art form helps us rise above our past like cairns, creating markers along the history of humankind in our sculptures as we move forward.

 

My Favorite Poem

My Favorite Poem

2018.09.17

The Creative Soul

 

Rudyard Kipling once remarked “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”  Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist.  Born in India from whence came the inspiration for most of his writing, he would become one of the most popular writers in the British Empire, famed for both his prose and his poetry.   In 1907, at the age of 42, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize and its youngest recipient for over one hundred years.

 

Editing a collection of Kipling’s works in 1941, the poet T. S. Eliot wrote in the introduction to the published collection:  “An immense gift for using words, an amazing curiosity and power of observation with his mind and with all his senses, the mask of the entertainer, and beyond that a queer gift of second sight, of transmitting messages from elsewhere, a gift so disconcerting when we are made aware of it that thenceforth we are never sure when it is not present: all this makes Kipling a writer impossible wholly to understand and quite impossible to belittle.”

 

My favorite poem was written by Kipling and first published in ‘Rewards and Fairies’.  Written in the form of paternal advice to the poet’s son, John, who was at the time age twelve, the poem is considered a classic.  It regained popularity after the death of 2nd Lt John Kipling during World War One six years later.

 

If

If you can keep your head when all about you  

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;  

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;  

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;  

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,  

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,  

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Whistle a Happy Tune

Whistle a Happy Tune

2018.09.15

The Creative Soul

 

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”  We now know after hundreds of studies that Plato spoke the truth when he said those words about the fine art of music.  Jae-Sang Park, better known as Psy, said it in a different way:  “The world’s most famous and popular language is music.”  Indeed, when a space probe was sent into deep space to make contact with any beings that might inhabit the outer parts of our galaxy, music was the language used to communicate.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow agreed with Psy:  ““Music is the universal language of mankind.”

 

In a 2013 article from Medical News Today, Sarah Glynn reported that playing and listening to music benefits both mental and physical health.  A large-scale review of over four hundred research papers regarding the neurochemistry of music found that music improves the body’s immune system and reduces stress levels.  A 2011 report centered on the anxiety of cancer patients revealed “compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” stated researcher, cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin.  “But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity and as an aid to social bonding.”  Their research also showed that music increases an antibody that plays an important role in immunity of the mucous system, known as immunoglobulin A, as well as natural killer cell counts, the cells that attack germs and bacteria invading the body.

 

Listening to and playing music can also lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and, when combined with standard care, music therapy has been proven an effective treatment for depression.  “Auditory biology is not frozen in time. It’s a moving target. And music education really does seem to enhance communication by strengthening language skills” stated Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences, Neurobiology & Physiology, and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University as well as the principal investigator at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.

 

Music and its effect on memory has been a heated debate in the scientific world, but researchers now have evidence that the processing of music and language, specifically memorizing information, rely on some of the same brain systems.  Even for those who once studied/played an instrument, the benefits remain.  Many use music during a workout to help keep them motivation but music is of use to us all.  Listening to music releases endorphins in the brain. Endorphins give us a heightened feeling of excitement. In addition to feeling euphoric, endorphins quell anxiety, ease pain and stabilize the immune system. With high endorphin levels, we have fewer negative effects of stress.

 

A study from Austria’s General Hospital of Salzburg found that patients recovering from back surgery had increased rates of healing and reported less pain when music was incorporated into the standard rehabilitation process.  “Music is an important part of our physical and emotional well-being, ever since we were babies in our mother’s womb listening to her heartbeat and breathing rhythms,” recounted clinical psychologist of Austria General, Franz Wendtner.  With brain-imaging techniques, such as functional MRIs, music is increasingly being used in therapy for brain-related injuries and diseases. Brain scans have proven that music and motor control share circuits, so music can improve movement for those with Parkinson’s disease and for individuals recovering from a stroke. Neurologic music therapy should become part of rehabilitative care, according to the Finnish researchers. They believe that future findings may well indicate that music should be included on the list of therapies and rehabilitation for many disorders.

 

Just like listening to slow music to calm the body, music can also have a relaxing effect on the mind. Researchers at Stanford University found that listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication. Since music is so widely available and inexpensive, it’s an easy stress reduction option.  In one meta-analysis of 10 randomized studies, researchers tracked 557 participants with chronic sleep disorders. They found that sleep quality was improved significantly with music and concluded that “music can assist in improving sleep quality of patients with acute and chronic sleep disorders.”

 

Musical entrainment creates connection both internally and externally which can be seen when watching a whole crowd dance to a live band, or the people around you sobbing at an opera. Science explains this as an aspect of mirror neurons, which are a form of mimicking that can happen emotionally and physically. Maybe a song will give you chills, make you cry, or spontaneously start jamming on an air guitar, or dancing uncontrollably. In the study, The Neuroscience of Music, published by the Department of Psychology at McGill University, Montreal, researchers found preliminary scientific evidence supporting claims that music influences health through neurochemical changes in four domains: reward, motivation and pleasure; stress and arousal; immunity; and social affiliation.

 

Three years ago a family member was involved in a horrible automobile accident through no fault of their own.  Their car rolled over and over for almost four hundred yards and when it stopped said family member was immediately removed from the car, being cut out of the seat belt, by a nurse who luckily was on site.  CPR was administered immediately and within ten minutes the family member arrived at a major trauma center, unresponsive, unconscious, and unable to breath unassisted.  A four-month coma followed as did seven months of in-house intensive rehabilitation.  Traumatic brain injury was extensive and family member not only had to learn to speak and walk all over again, they had to learn their own name. 

 

Music therapy had been initiated within the first ten days of the accident while family member was still in the coma.  Upon awakening from the coma it was apparent memory was gone.  What was remembered was “Every good boy does fine” and “All cows eat grass.”  These are the two mnemonic devices used to teach children how to read a musical staff.  Said family member had taken band through senior high school but never really studied deeply.  Yet, when everything else was lost from family member’s memory, the ability to read music remained.  Slowly music became the key to connecting a forgotten past with the present. 

 

There is still much to do in the recovery journey of my family member but the importance music played cannot be overstated.  Hans Christian Andersen said it most succinctly:  “When words fail, music speaks.”

 

 

A Vision for Living

A Vision for Living

2018.09.13

The Creative Soul

 

Ask a group of people who amongst them is an artist and probably no one will raise their hand.  Yet, most of us were given visual art assignments as a part of our schooling.  Therefore, at some time, we all were artists.  There are very good reasons why the visual arts are included in the educational process.  Children who receive art lessons are better students, not only while in school, but for life.

 

First of all, creating art relieves stress and encourages creative thinking.  In other words, art encourages positive thinking.  Art also boosts self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment.  We tend to lost that as we become adults.  Think about the delight in a child’s face when they have completed a coloring page.  We will discuss more about the hindrances to creativity next week.

 

Making art, whether it be drawing, coloring, sketching, or free form, increases brain connectivity and plasticity.  Brain flexibility allows new thoughts to form, new avenues of thinking, and opens the door for inventiveness as well as greater creativity.  Even viewing art has its benefits.  It increases empathy, tolerance, and feelings of openness, acceptance, and love.  Goodness knows the world certainly needs more of those!

 

Art develops the whole brain.  Research and studies have proven that art increases attention, strengthens focus, requires practice and develops eye-hand coordination.  Additionally, creating art means one is interacting with the world as well as the various mediums and tools being used.  As Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

 

Dr. Heather L. Stuckey and Dr. Jeremy Nobel, writing for the American Journal of Public Health, reviewed research in the area of art and healing in an effort to determine the creative therapies most often employed.  Four primary therapies emerged: music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing.  In these forms of expression, arts modalities and creative processes were used during intentional interventions to foster health.

 

Drs. Stuckey and Nobel disclosed that art and health have been at the center of human interest from the beginning of recorded history.  “Despite that fact, and despite the invested effort and growth of knowledge and understanding in each arena, it is interesting that we often still find ourselves struggling with the “fundamentals” of art and health and their meaning in society. We make no attempt to clarify or resolve these fundamental issues.  Instead, our intent is to summarize current knowledge about the connection between art and health, identify the most compelling next steps for investigation, and generate further interest in researching the complexities of art and health. Legitimate research questions include whether certain art-based therapies are more or less effective than others, whether the impact of therapy can be tied to other important variables and preconditions, and whether health benefits are sustained or short term. These issues deserve vigorous continued attention.”

 

Art helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, such as a diagnosis of cancer. Some people with cancer have explored the meanings of their past, present, and future during art therapy, thereby integrating cancer into their life story and giving it meaning.  Art can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness.  There are no limits to the imagination in finding creative ways of expressing grief. 

 

In a quantitative trial of mindfulness art therapy targeted toward women with cancer, researchers found that those who engaged in art making demonstrated statistically significant decreases in symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment. In addition to the introduction of self-care through guided imagery, the art-making therapy involved the women drawing complete pictures of themselves and engaging in yoga and meditation. The relaxation and symptom reduction produced by creative expression opened pathways to emotional healing.

 

Pick up a pen, a crayon, or a paintbrush or a bit of clay and – poof – you have become a visual artist.  Artists pour out their emotions through the process of painting. This practice encourages artists to look at their own emotional state and take stock of emotions they may not even realize they have. Releasing emotions through artwork is a cathartic experience for many painters. In fact, even therapists suggest painting or drawing as a treatment path for patients who have suffered psychologically painful encounters. Letting out emotions by painting promotes healing through abstract emotional expression.

 

People that paint/draw/sculpt experience an increase in their emotional intelligence level. Allowing your emotions to come out in painting helps you understand your own emotional state and realize which factors contribute to your varying moods.  Experimenting with different visual art forms can help one understand what triggers feelings such as happiness, sadness, love, or anger. Often, the emotions you feel when creating this work project onto the people that view your paintings. Painters have the ability to bring others happiness, sharing their positive mindset with viewers. This skill makes the artist better company for themselves and those around them.  Art gives us all better living.

With Pen in Hand

With Pen in Hand

2018.09.11

The Creative Soul

 

Today is a day that affected the world seventeen years ago.  The victims were citizens of the world in that they came from over eighty countries.  For those of us in the United States it seemed like a personal attack and yet, it was really an attack on humankind.  The grief still lingers as does the fear.  Writing poetry (or any literary format) can be a great therapeutic tool for such events.

 

In 2009 Richard Alleyne explored this in an article written for “The Telegraph”, a UK publication.  “Putting pen to paper is said to help the brain “regulate emotion” and reduces feelings of anxiety, fear and sadness.  Researchers claim the act of writing about personal experiences has a cathartic effect because it inhibits parts of the brain linked to emotional turmoil, and increases activity in the region to do with self-control.”

 

Now if you are like most of us, you are thinking “I can’t write!”  However, you can because research indicates that the quality of the poetry or prose is of little importance.  In fact, some researchers believe the less descriptive, the better in therapeutic benefits.  Most writers have gone through those periods of self-doubt.  As we saw in last month’s series, the important thing was to keep writing and reading.

 

Dr. Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscientist at the University of California, outlined his findings regarding the use of writing to ease social fears and phobias at an American Association for the Advancement of Science convention in a lecture called ‘Putting Feelings Into Words’.  He said that expressing yourself in print was “a sort of unintentional emotion regulation”.  “It seems to regulate our distress,” he added. “I don’t think that people sit down in order to regulate their emotions but there is a benefit.   “I think it could play a role in why many people write diaries or write bad lyrics to songs – the kind that should never be played on the radio.”  Dr. Lieberman proved the therapeutic power of writing by scanning the brains of 30 individuals while they described distressing pictures.  He found that the act tended to reduce activity in the amygala, a part of the brain connected with emotion and fear and increased activity in the pre-frontal cortex, the mind’s regulator.

 

Alleyne also reported that in another trial, writing was used in conjunction with exposure therapy for people who had a phobia of spiders.  It was discovered that writing about their fears actually boosted the effect of the therapy compared with people who did not put pen to paper.  “We do think that it has clinical applications,” Dr. Lieberman said.   “People expressing negative emotional responses in words while being exposed gave them greater attenuation (reduction) of fear.”  Dr. Lieberman said that the effect was negated if the writing was too vivid or descriptive because it led to people reliving their trauma. Also, typing was not as good as writing long-hand.

 

Whether journaling thoughts, chronicling the day, attempting poetry or starting a novel, old-fashioned pen and paper has an immense impact on emotional well-being, helping students organize their thoughts and even improve their moods.  Despite being viewed as an old-fashion activity, writing by hand is still considered a valuable skill that has many cognitive benefits both in and out of the classroom.

 

One of the primary benefits from writing by hand is stress relief.  Additionally, writing by hand has been proven to increase brain activity and creativity as well as increase memory and retention.  By using long-hand, one activates certain centers in the brain that involves more senses and motor neurons.  Writing about one’s feelings can improve one’s mood and lead to a greater sense of well-being, sorting out and bring together one’s thoughts as well as prioritizing and viewing one’s fears in a proper perspective.

 

Even writing a thank you note and/or recording reasons to be grateful before bedtime has led to better sleeping in recent studies.  Journaling has been proven to be more than just a simple diary of the day’s events.  It can be a way to organize the day’s events and view them from a less emotional standpoint.  This in turn opens the door for rational and logical movement without fear and a sense of security.

 

Electrical engineer and financier Ganesh S. Nagarsekar has led an interesting path from a chawl in Mumbai to being recruited by J. P. Morgan upon graduation and now by Goldman Sachs.  Writing poetry is integral to the founder of the website ‘On a Platter by GSN’.  Nagarsekar explains:  “For starters it makes you feel great. There is something peaceful and liberating about writing poetry.  A decent vocabulary as well as a clean flow of thought will take you far in life. A good poem demands both.   A poem can be interpreted by different people in entirely different way. This gives you a lot to play with.  They are relatively less time consuming. I can write a few verses in the last five minutes of a boring lecture.  This last point applies to all fields of writing, not just poetry. Sometimes when you are writing on a particular topic, you come to a verse, and by the time you have completed it you have a whole new perspective on the issue.”

 

The owner of the NBA team the Phoenix Suns may seems like an odd proponent for writing poetry but Richard Jaffe firmly believes in it.  Jaffe is first and foremost a businessman.  He was most recently the CEO of the medical technology company Safe Life Corporation.  He also founded Safe Sink Corp, a latex glove manufacturer sold to Kimberly-Clark and Nutri-Foods International, a frozen dessert company sold to Coca-Cola Co.  His first published book of poetry is entitled “Inner Peace and Happiness”.

 

Jaffe spoke about his feeling for poetry in an article published in 2013 on a website run by Americans for the Arts which serves, advances, and leads the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America.  “We would be wise to celebrate America’s poetry because it’s an art form that does as much—sometimes even more—for the writer as the reader. Poems inspire, educate, and cleanse.  The process of exploring my thoughts and feelings and expressing them in symbolic word images exercises my creativity in a fun way. I think it makes me sharper and, the more I explore the well of my imagination, the faster it fills again.”

 

Jaffe sees these benefits  from writing poetry. 

·         “1. Improves cognitive function. Learning new words (I’m never without a Thesaurus), working out meter (math!), and finding new ways to articulate our thoughts and feelings (communication) are all good for the brain. Want to get smarter? Write poetry! 

·         2. Helps heal emotional pain. Grief is one of the most painful emotions we experience, and it’s also the source of some of the world’s most inspirational poetry. When I have experienced a profound loss, the act of putting my feelings into words or memorializing and paying tribute to those who I lost is extremely cathartic.

·         3. Leads us to greater self-awareness. Most of us don’t have the time or desire to just sit and aimlessly ponder the meaning of our lives or what makes us deeply happy. Writing poetry gives us a constructive way to do that. Not only does it help us explore and gain insight, we have something to show for all that “inner reflection” when we’re done.

·         4. Provides a gift of inspiration or education to others. One thing we know—we are not alone! Universal questions, fears, and emotions are called ‘universal’ because everyone, no matter what country or culture they’re raised in, experiences them. Once we’ve done the work of exploring and finding our own answers, we can help others by sharing them. I like to share my poem ‘Eternal Happiness’ because it describes what I’ve found to be the source of my own eternal happiness.

·         5. Helps us celebrate! For some things, balloons and cake just don’t suffice. Proposing to my wife, the births of my children, their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, falling in love—these were among the most emotionally powerful, joyful times of my life. Thanks to the poems I wrote at the time to capture those feelings, I can experience them again and again.”

 

I once passed by a sign at a Mexican restaurant while stuck in traffic.  Sitting there staring at the sign while counting to ten twenty times to reduce my stress level, I realized the sign was advertising a contest.  “write a limerick and win fifty chalupas!” the sign read.  To be honest, the sign actually read “Quintilla Comica! Enscribe un Limerick y gana cincuenta chalupas!”  Fortunately, beneath it was the English translation: “Write a limerick and win fifty chalupas!”  All day I wondered what a chalupa was and as I drove home, again getting stuck in the construction zone back up, began composing a few limericks just for fun and again, stress relief, in my head.  The next afternoon I wrote one down on paper and picked up a couple of tacos at this restaurant for supper, submitting my limerick at the same time.  A week later I drove by the restaurant and to my surprise, saw my name on the marquee.  I had won the contest and happily I discovered I loved chalupas!  Carve out a few minutes for yourself today or before bedtime and put pen in hand.  It not only will benefit your brain but also your mental and emotional health and maybe even your taste buds!

 

 

 

 

 

Judy Blume

Judy Blume

2018.08.30

Literature and Life

 

“For me, writing has its ups and downs. After I had written more than ten books I thought seriously about quitting. I felt I couldn’t take the loneliness anymore. I thought I would rather be anything than a writer. But I’ve finally come to appreciate the freedom of writing. I accept the fact that it’s hard and solitary work. And I worry about running out of ideas or repeating myself. So I’m always looking for new challenges.”  Judy Blume might just be the most honest writer in our world.  “When I was growing up, I dreamed about becoming a cowgirl, a detective, a spy, a great actress or a ballerina. Not a dentist, like my father, or a homemaker, like my mother— certainly not a writer, although I always loved to read. I didn’t know anything about writers. It never occurred to me they were regular people and that I could grow up to become one, even though I loved to make up stories inside my head.”

 

I remember once in college being asked my most favorite book, a question I have since been asked annually.  In college that day, I answered most honestly.  My answer was met with an uncomfortable silence and finally my instructor remarked he did not know that book.  He moved on to the next student but then later told me I needed to write a book report on my “unusual and unknown favorite book.”  I did so and turned it in the next day.  “Out of all of the vast volumes of literature in the world,” he sputtered, “you like a children’s book?”  That memory and his disdain is as real today and it was then so you can imagine my delight in learning my favorite book is also one of Judy Blume’s!  More on that book, later.

 

Judy Blume grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  She checked her favorite book “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans out from the public library and “I loved it so much I hid it so my mother would not be able to return it to the library.  I thought it was the only copy in the world.”  I first read “Madeline” at the age of four and loved that the young girls were expected to convey themselves with adult etiquette and manners.  At a time when people were still somewhat speaking baby talk to me, this book gave me a sense of the possibility of maturity.  It is that very sense of honesty that Judy Blume is known for in her books.

 

When asked about influences our favorite writers, Blume responds:  “Libba Bray, Harper Lee, Stephen King,.. there’s tons.   Poet – Emily Dickenson, Edgar Allen Poe, or William Shakespeare, I guess. I don’t read much poetry. Does Jim Morrison count? I have a book of lyrics & poems by him. Singer – How about some bands?  Breaking Benjamin, The Doors, and hundreds more. But those are my top 2 at the moment. Book – Rebel Angels; Night; To Kill a Mockingbird… Those are my favorites right now. But that will probably change in a few days.”

 

Clearly Judy Blume was born a writer.    “I made up stories while I bounced a ball against the side of our house. I made up stories playing with paper dolls. And I made them up while I practiced the piano, by pretending to give piano lessons. I even kept a notebook with the names of my pretend students and how they were doing. I always had an active imagination. But I never wrote down any of my stories. And I never told anyone about them. … When I grew up, my need for story telling didn’t go away. So when my own two children started pre-school I began to write and I’ve been writing ever since! My characters live inside my head for a long time before I actually start to write a book about them. Then, they become so real to me I talk about them at the dinner table as if they are real. Some people consider this weird. But my family understands.”

 

Judy Blume has been the target of those who would censor books and critiqued for her open and honest discussion of life with her young adult readers.  She has successfully made the jump from writing for children to writing for adults with over ninety million books sold in over thirty-two languages.  She and her third husband live in Key West, Florida.  Blume is a two-time cancer survivor.

 

Her advice for writers is straightforward.  “The best books come from someplace deep inside. You don’t write because you want to, but because you have to. Become emotionally involved. If you don’t care about your characters, your readers won’t either.  Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being. If you’re that kind of writer, never give up! If you start a story and it isn’t going well, put it aside. (We’re not talking about school assignments here.) You can start as many as you like because you’re writing for yourself. With each story you’ll learn more. One day it will all come together for you, as it did for me with “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”   I’d published two books and several short stories before Margaret, but I hadn’t found my voice yet. I hadn’t written from deep inside. With Margaret I found my voice and my audience.”

 

“No one can teach you exactly how to write. Each person approaches creative writing differently. Every writer has his or her own method. I usually have a character or story idea inside my head for a long time (sometimes years) before I actually begin. I know where I’m starting and where I’m going but I never know what’s going to happen in the middle or if the ending will be what I imagined on the day I began to write. It’s the surprise that makes writing exciting for me. Other writers know everything before they begin. They make detailed outlines or have it all worked out in their heads before they put a word on paper. There is no right way or wrong way. There are a hundred different ways to tell the same story. Whatever works for you is okay.”